Cassandro Bonasera John Cammilleri Joseph Fino Sam Frangiamore Thomas Hunt Antonino Magaddino Stefano Magaddino Angelo Palmeri Michael A. Tona

Filippo Mazzara (Oct. 16, 1889, to Dec. 22, 1927)

Filippo Mazzara was born Oct. 16, 1889, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, to Camillo and Caterina Palmeri Mazzara. He sailed to the U.S. aboard the S.S. Brasile at the age of 17, arriving in New York City on Feb. 7, 1907. He joined relatives residing in the tenements on Stanton Street in Manhattan's "Little Italy."

On both sides of the Atlantic, the Mazzara family maintained a close relationship with the DiBenedetto family, also from Castellammare.

In 1910, Filippo Mazzara and Giuseppe DiBenedetto married sisters Antonina and Rosaria Pampalona from Castellammare. The double-marriage was celebrated at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York. After the marriages, the couples returned to New York City and settled in the Castellammarese colony of Brooklyn.

In the U.S. as well as in Sicily, Castellammarese Mafiosi were embroiled in a bitter rivalry that originated in their common hometown. The long feud is believed to have been the cause of the double-murder of Filippo Mazzara's older brother Antonino and Giuseppe DiBenedetto's brother Antonino in 1917.

Gravesite of Antonino Mazzara
and Antonino DiBenedetto
Mazzara moved to Buffalo in 1920 to lead a Buffalo-based Castellammarese crew within the western New York crime family overseen by boss Giuseppe DiCarlo. Mazzara also managed a commission merchant business owned by DiCarlo. Within a year, Giuseppe DiBenedetto also relocated to Buffalo and became Mazzara's trusted aide.

During the 1921 investigation of the "Good Killers" case - a series of murders related to an ongoing feud among Castellammarese Mafiosi - police attempted to identify a man designated by one of the warring factions as "the chief." Based in Buffalo, "the chief" was believed responsible for issuing murder orders to Good Killers gang members and for coordinating with leaders in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. The title could have referred either to Giuseppe DiCarlo or Angelo Palmeri, but the investigation later focused on Filippo Mazzara.

Giuseppe DiCarlo died in 1922, and Mazzara was one of the Mafiosi considered as his successor. Another Castellammarese Mafia leader, Stefano Magaddino, was chosen. Magaddino eventually moved the headquarters of the western New York Mafia to Niagara Falls. Mazzara and Angelo Palmeri served as Magaddino's chief lieutenants in Buffalo.

In 1923, Mazzara established the Mazzara & Perna firm, a commission merchant business that controlled Prohibition Era sugar distribution in western New York. The business was highly profitable due in large part to the need for sugar in liquor moonshining. Control of sugar distribution also provided Mazzara with a measure of control over regional distilling operations. He became closely associated with the Lonardo brothers, leaders of the Cleveland Mafia and holders of a wholesale sugar monopoly in northeast Ohio. Mazzara also owned the Roma Cafe in Buffalo. The establishment was a regular meeting place for Buffalo Mafia members.

He remained close to the family of the late Giuseppe DiCarlo. In 1924, Mazzara and his wife served as witnesses to the marriage of DiCarlo's son Joseph to Elsie Pieri.

By 1925, Mazzara was viewed as a wealthy commission merchant and as a leader of the Italian colony in Buffalo. He was president of the local Castellammare del Golfo Society.

Violence erupted in Cleveland in 1927, as a Mafia faction led by Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro and the Porrello brothers tried to wrest control of the corn sugar monopoly from the Lonardos. Brothers Joseph and John Lonardo were shot to death in a double-murder in October of 1927. Sugar-war violence reached Buffalo two months later.

Filippo Mazzara was killed Dec. 22, 1927. He was driving a vehicle on Buffalo's west side when two other automobiles, one a large touring car and the other a medium-sized sedan, forced him to the curb. A half-dozen gunmen jumped from the two automobiles and opened fire. A double-barreled shotgun was fired within two feet of the driver's side window of Mazzara's vehicle. The blast shattered all the car windows, crushed the left side of Mazzara's head and tore off part of the thirty-eight-year-old underworld leader's scalp. The attack occurred so swiftly that Mazzara had no opportunity to defend himself. A pistol that he carried at his waist had not been drawn. He was killed instantly. The gunmen returned to their cars and sped away.

Buffalo Police immediately connected Mazzara's killing with the recent Lonardo murders in Cleveland. They concluded that the same gang was responsible and believed that out-of-town gangsters were brought into Buffalo to eliminate the Mafia leader. The Callea brothers of Buffalo were suspected of engineering the attack on Mazzara. Vincenzo "Big Jim" Callea and his brother Salvatore, backed by the Porrello family of Cleveland, had begun competing for a share of bootlegging profits. They had set up speakeasies and distilleries in Buffalo and Niagara Falls in defiance of the powerful western New York crime family. After the assassination of Mazzara, the Callea brothers were for a time the dominant bootlegging faction in Buffalo.

Prompted by the brutal murder of Filippo Mazzara, the Buffalo Police Department created a new Italian Squad to investigate gangland murders in the city's Italian neighborhoods.

Floral tributes to the fallen Mafia leader filled eight trucks.

Hundreds of mourners swarmed the Mazzara home to pay their respects. Numerous floral tributes filled three rooms of the house. The most conspicuous display was an eight-foot-tall heart of roses surrounding a life-size photograph of Mazzara. Two large doves adorned the top of the heart. Over the gang leader's casket was draped a floral blanket created from hundreds of white Killarney roses.

Mazzara's underworld career disqualified him from the traditional Roman Catholic Mass of Christian Burial. A funeral procession to St. Mary's on the Hill Episcopal Church was led by a thirty-piece band and included more than 150 cars of mourners. It took eight trucks to transport the flowers to his gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Mazzara gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Paul Palmeri (Oct. 1, 1892, to May 7, 1955)

Paul Palmeri

Paolo (Paul) Palmeri was born Oct. 1, 1892, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, the youngest son of Francesco and Anna Caleca Palmeri. He and his two brothers, Giovanni and Benedetto (Angelo), were raised in an upper middle class family, supported by their father's work as a merchant.

At the age of 16, Paul Palmeri sailed for the United States. He arrived in New York City aboard the S.S. Prinzess Irene on Feb. 27, 1909. He moved into the Italian colony of lower Manhattan and became employed as a barber.

Elena (Helen) Curti, born in Italy on Oct. 24, 1896, became Palmeri's bride in New York City on July 27, 1914. Palmeri's best man was Silvio Tagliagambe, a subordinate of the U.S. Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila. (Tagliagambe was shot to death in 1922. Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, a D'Aquila rival, was charged with the murder.)

Paul Palmeri, his wife and their two children, Anna and Ernesto, moved from New York City to Niagara Falls in 1920. There he assisted his brother Angelo with the organization of bootlegging rackets. Two additional children, Marie and Frank, were born to Paul and Helen Palmeri while they resided in Niagara Falls.

The Palmeri brothers, in association with the Sirianni brothers, "Don Simone" Borruso, Joseph H. Sottile and Canadian crime boss Rocco Perri, controlled the flow of illegal liquor into the U.S. from Canada. At the same time, Paul and Angelo Palmeri went into business together as produce importers and commission merchants.

In 1922, Angelo left Niagara Falls for Buffalo, where he temporarily assumed control of the local Mafia organization following the death of boss Giuseppe DiCarlo.

Paul Palmeri was naturalized a U.S. citizen on June 4, 1923. A character witness on his August 1922 citizenship application was the notorious bootlegger Joseph H. Sottile.

In 1928, Palmeri went into a new line of work, partnering with Alfred Panepinto in the Panepinto & Palmeri Funeral Home in Niagara Falls. By that time, Palmeri was a trusted member of a western New York Mafia organization commanded by Stefano Magaddino.

When a factional split in the U.S. Mafia resulted in the Castellammarese War, Palmeri naturally sided with the Castellammarese and supported their New York City standard-bearer Salvatore Maranzano in his war against Giuseppe Masseria. Police investigating Maranzano's murder in September 1931 found Palmeri's address and telephone number in Maranzano's memo book.

Palmeri was arrested Nov. 9, 1931, along with four suspected accomplices in Chicago. The group was charged with kidnapping wealthy fur dealer Alexander Berg. Members of the Berg family were instructed to meet with his captors. Police went to the meeting location and found Palmeri, "Dago Lawrence" Mangano, Frank Chiaravalloti, Sylvester Agoglia and Angelo Caruso waiting in a parked car. The five men were released the following day as no evidence had been found to connect them to the abduction of Berg.

While the arrest did not result in convictions, it served to document some important underworld connections just two months after the death of Maranzano. Palmeri was a trusted member of Magaddino's western New York organization. Mangano was a prominent member of Alphonse Capone's Chicago Outfit. Chiaravalloti and Agoglia were Chicago residents - Agoglia shared a common Brooklyn gangland background with Capone. Caruso was a resident of New York City and was second-in-command of a Brooklyn-based Castellammarese crime family formerly led by Maranzano.

Palmeri was arrested in New York City the following year, as police investigated the murder of Pittsburgh Mafia boss John Bazzano. Bazzano had ordered the murder of John, James and Arthur Volpe, Neapolitan racketeers from the Pittsburgh area, and was summoned to New York to answer for his actions. Mafia leaders were unsatisfied with his explanation. Bazzano's dead body was found tied with clothesline and wrapped in a burlap sack. He had been stabbed multiple times with ice picks.

Informants led police to hotels in Manhattan and Brooklyn where visiting Mafiosi were staying. Fourteen men were arrested, including Palmeri and Sam DiCarlo from the Buffalo area, and Albert Anastasia, John "Johnny Bath Beach" Oddo, Cassandro "Tony the Chief" Bonasera, Ciro Gallo and Giuseppe Traina of Brooklyn.

In the spring of 1934, Palmeri was charged with assaulting a police officer at the scene of a traffic accident. His conviction led to his first prison sentence, thirty days in county jail.

In the mid-1930s, boss Stefano Magaddino made demands for tribute payments from regional gambling bookmakers and encountered considerable resistance. Frank and Russell LoTempio of Batavia were believed to be leaders of a group opposing Magaddino. The conflict became bloody in May 1936, when a bomb exploded in a Niagara Falls home, killing Magaddino's sister Arcangela Longo. Paul Palmeri delivered the eulogy for Longo, noting his relationship with the Magaddino family since his childhood in Sicily. Magaddino's vengeance was swift. Frank LoTempio was murdered the following month. Russell LoTempio was severely injured when a bomb exploded in his automobile a few months later.

The Panepinto & Palmeri partnership dissolved. Alfred Panepinto was a brother-in-law of the LoTempios. By 1937, he left Niagara Falls and resettled in Batavia. He was murdered there in August 1937.

Palmeri was active in the local chapter of the Castellammare del Golfo Society. The group's 25th anniversary in 1939 was marked with a ball and banquet at the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo. Stefano Magaddino held the position of banquet general chairman. John C. Montana, president of the local Montedoro Society (and Magaddino's underboss), was an honored guest speaker at the event. Paul Palmeri served as toastmaster and praised the accomplishments of prominent Italian Americans in the region.

Speakers at the 25th anniversay banquet of the Castellammare del Golfo Society (left to right):
Northwestern University professor Dr. Cono Ciufia, hospital medical technician Mary
Cicina Gallo, toastmaster Paul Palmeri, banquet chairman Stefano Magaddino.

(Buffalo Courier Express, Jan. 12, 1939.)

Paul Palmeri chats with John Montana at the
banquet of the Castellammare del Golfo Society.
(Buffalo Times, Jan. 12, 1939.)
By 1940, Magaddino's brother Antonino joined Palmeri in his funeral home business. The Palmeri Funeral Home later became the Magaddino Funeral Home, with Stefano Magaddino's son Peter taking over as its president.

Paul Palmeri moved out of Niagara Falls in 1941, reportedly after a rift with Stefano Magaddino. He relocated to Passaic, New Jersey, and reestablished a working relationship with Willie Moretti. At the time, Moretti was a key figure in the Frank Costello (later Genovese) crime family. Decades earlier, Moretti had run gambling rackets for the Palmeris in Niagara Falls.

In 1942, Palmeri was indicted as one of the leaders of an alcohol bootlegging ring that evaded $3.5 million in federal taxes between 1933 and 1941. Palmeri was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison and a $9,000 fine.

The Palmeri-Moretti relationship was strengthened through the marriage of Palmeri's son Frank to Moretti's daughter Marie in 1947. When Moretti was murdered in 1951, police noted Palmeri's closeness to the victim and questioned him as a material witness.

Paul Palmeri died May 7, 1955, at Passaic General Hospital after a short illness. He was 62. His wife Helen passed away Sept. 15, 1998, at the age of 101.